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Georgia On My Womb

Georgia On My Womb

by Tamila Kianfard

Tamila Kianfard is an Outstanding Scholar who has been actively engaged with United Nations committees and non-governmental organizations. She has previously contributed to this site. She authored and published this piece in June of 2019.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

The politics of Georgia have become much like the weather of Georgia— unpredictable and absurd. Let’s not even get started on the other Southern states. Alabama, Mississippi—I’m talking about you.

If Georgia’s “heartbeat” bill (HB 481 2019-2020) wasn’t so terrifying and sinister in nature—it would actually be comical. Especially when one considers who is making all the final decisions.

Picture this: A hastily casual meeting of medieval minds, tired and slouching at an outdated round table, matching the outdated conversation. With horrible lighting overhead, coffee, tea, and stale biscuits; they make swift and steady decisions about issues that don’t—and never will—pertain to them. Yes, imagine that for a second, and let it sink in, deep. At best, that’s how these decisions are made.

I for one, hope to one day adopt (either a child or a pet, I haven’t decided), if just for the fear of possible genetic repercussions (I was a terror child and if my mother’s prayers work, my children will be worse). Either way, the choice is mine, and it should always be mine. It’s our divine right as women— for the price we pay as mothers, and the sacrifices our bodies make—that no male counterpart will ever understand.

However, Georgia’s “heartbeat” bill is in violation of the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment—the right to privacy—the right our countrymen, and women, died for us to have. To infringe on this right, is to infringe on their memories. There is no honor in that.

Let’s just cut right to the chase, shall we?

(Ahem)

Abortion is not a governmental claim; it should not be a religious claim; and above all—it will never be a man’s claim.

It is a womb-an’s personal claim (see what I did there?).

As a woman, even I find myself fretting over how to appropriately tip-toe around the issue. Which is why I find it almost satirical, and highly offensive, when anyone, especially male counterparts, feel so entitled to their invalid opinions about a choice that isn’t theirs to make in the first place.

Nevertheless, there are some holes in the round table debates regarding HB 481 2019-2020, that I would solely like to note:

1. Oh the irony!          

Isn’t it ironic? The ones who want to cut, lessen, take away the amount of federal funding, feeding into the federal aid system (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) are the same ones who have made a decision that will now be, open-endedly, populating it? 

Let’s just try to ignore the initial, nonsensical reasoning behind the name of the bill— because, frankly, that’s another issue. (More importantly, I’m not medically-certified to expand on this… For this same reason, the GOP shouldn’t either.)

I’m a proud Georgia girl, born and bred, but this is not our finest hour. Frankly, and disturbingly, I find the GOP’s vote on HB 481 to be more, odd, than anything else. As if the GOP is acting in spite of itself, and all of Georgia too.

The redtape on Republican tax dollars would make one think the GOP would be rooting for abortions, if it meant reducing federal aid by default. The obvious lag in logic is truly alarming.

For those who missed it: More people in unstable situations means increased federal aid dependency. (Also, friendly reminder for those who think abortions are a government handout; abortions are not free in most states—and Georgia is no exception. Medicaid does not cover abortions in Georgia. Most people pay out-of-pocket, anywhere between $400-$1,000, give or take.)

Not to add insult to injury, but as luck would have it, the Peach State is also home to an ever-growing movie industry. Georgia provides space for Hollywood films and popular tv shows, and with them comes lots of staunch pro-choice Hollywood actors (they don’t call it the “liberal arts for nothing). So, imagine our surprise, as Georgians, in our beloved Peach State, when the GOP not only went ahead and voted “Yes” for the “heartbeat” bill, but did so knowing it would mean expelling the Blues, and the greens. The GOP didn’t stop at losing millions of dollars in all the above mentioned, but now we will enter loss in the billions, as productions have already begun pulling out of Georgia. Nice one, guys.

2. Oh, the hypocrisy!

I have always found it rather peculiar that, somehow, religion is always at the top of the list for considerations against abortion. This begs the question: If abortion is considered a sin—isn’t pre-marital sex, a sin too? But that didn’t stop anyone from doing it. So why didn’t the rules apply there, religiously?

The real hypocrisy is that we can preach about an unborn fetus, but overlook the millions of children in the world without homes. You want to do your due diligence to the world? Let’s talk about the children who are already here.

I remember the first time I spoke on a panel discussing the Status of Women. I was nervous; more worried about what would come up, and who I was going to offend. Then, lo and behold! The question I fervently try to avoid, came up, and was addressed to me. The inquirers: Three strong, young, brave, Catholic girls from Mexico City. The question: “Do you believe in abortion?”

While the girls were sweet, and their courage made me proud—I was doomed. I loathed this topic. I completely froze, but I wasn’t about to lie either. Remarkably composed, I finally retorted: “I believe in adoption.”

The girls beamed with delight, and I thanked the Lord I came out of that alive, and with my dignity still fully intact.

So, I figure, if these [fiercely] devout Catholic girls from Mexico City could accept my response as a valid clause (diverting compromise?), then so can anyone else. Furthermore, if one is truly that worried about an unborn child, perhaps one should be that worried, and doing more, about the children [already] here. With the same enthusiasm and zest for life.

[On a side note: Kudos to the parents who choose to love their babies from the heart—regardless of the womb. Ya’ll are the real MVPs.]

Applause.

3. Oh, the idiocracy!

Let’s just call a spade, a spade. Some people just shouldn’t be parents. Correction: A lot, a lot of people shouldn’t be parents. I mean no offense (kindly refer to line 13, where I couldn’t decide between a pet or a child… proof that I myself should not be a parent).

Forcing individuals to become parents before they are ready, is the single worst thing that can be done. That innocent “life” you felt the need to protect, is now doomed, from the start. It is irresponsible (and cruel) to bring children into unstable households, and will cause more harm than anything else.

Alongside increased medical corruption…

Criminalizing abortion also means: More children ending up in unstable situations; more teenagers ending up in damaging cycles; more adults ending up in jail. How is this at all considered righteous? How can anyone proclaim this to be the moral thing to do? There’s nothing honorable about bringing a child into a situation where they don’t have everything they need to survive, much less thrive. Life is already difficult as it is, without any guarantees. Therefore, it’s shameful to knowingly, bring an unknowing child into a messy existence that would be an uphill battle from the start—that’s not what being a parent is about.

Pause.

It may be a woman’s choice, but the person who is ultimately most affected is the child. So, when chanting, “my body, my choice,” remember who else that choice truly affects. Having children necessitates a kind of selflessness that very few people, in fact, have. If one can’t comprehend this side of the discussion, perhaps one should not be a parent. Period. It’s selfish and we can do better, World.

Call, write, visit your local representatives and tell them how you feel. Remember, they are here for us; without us, they would not be here.

Also, to provide some perspective:

One Georgia State House Representative, Republican Chuck Martin of Alpharetta, who is actually against abortion and usually votes pro-life, actually voted against HB 481, believing it would “criminalize the practice of medicine,” according the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  As a woman from Georgia, I see the heroism here, kudos and thank you to state Rep. Chuck Martin of District 49, for being objective enough to put aside his personal beliefs for the greater good.

The balance in irony:

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, there were four Georgia State members who were absent, and excused, from voting. One Republican State Senator, and three Democrat State Senators. All women, with the exception of one. All Democrat, with the exception of one. I found this to be intriguing, but this one is open for interpretation.

Dueling Mantras

Dueling Mantras

by Marco M. Pardi

The first key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning…for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” Peter Abelard, Sic et non.

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s the one who asks the right questions.” Claude Levi-Strauss, Le Cru et le cuit.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

In the last few years, and right up to the moments you are reading this Americans have undergone a blizzard of stressors. Some of us, going back further than others, recall periods overshadowed by one or only a few worrisome developments or seeming possibilities. With air raid sirens wailing outside we “ducked and covered” beneath our school desks until one day we started feeling, “Oh, it’s only a drill.” The stressor changed from a falling bomb to a descending ruler wielded by a nun intent on saving us from our foolishness. So, duck and cover indeed.

Then we were horrified to learn that communists and homosexuals had infiltrated our institutions, from beloved movie studios to the hallowed halls of Congress and beyond. Okay, the hollowed halls of Congress. What might these “godless commie-homos” do, we wondered, dress us all alike and bugger us? But we were assured our magic presidential campaign lapel buttons would save us. The Eisenhower campaign ran on ubiquitous I Like Ike buttons, which for some were probably more a linguistic convenience than a declaration of ideology. I Like Ike rolls off the tongue more easily than I Like Katzenjammer or whoever else might try for a turn in the barrel.

Ardently seeking his turn, Barry Goldwater, Republican Senator from Arizona and strong advocate of nuclear force against North Vietnam and anyone else, lost his 1964 Presidential bid largely from the Democratic television ad showing a three year old girl picking petals from a daisy while a mushroom cloud erupted in the background. The ad ran only once but was burned completely into the American psyche. Interestingly, it could be said to foreshadow Cheech & Chong’s somewhat later mega-hit film, Up in Smoke.

Speaking of partnerships, the 20th century Don Quijote y Sancho Panza burst onto the scene incarnated as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Harvard, gave us the mantra, “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out”. His associate, Richard Alpert, Ph.D. , also Professor of Psychology at Harvard, gave us the mantra, “Be Here Now”. Dr. Alpert, an avid student of Hindu mysticism, went to India and adopted the name Baba Ram Das, meaning Servant of Ram. Both of them lost their positions at Harvard after conducting LSD experiments with graduate students. But the “drop acid – free love” era exploded, following unknowingly on the heels of joint CIA and Army experiments with aerosolizing LSD as a battlefield “love gas” to render enemy combatants blissful. Among the “morning after” effects of the free love movement was the emergence of a highly contagious STD for which there is still no cure: Herpes II. Thought by many to have been named after an obscure Egyptian Pharaoh, it remains with us to this day (and night). A caution against unprotected sex with mummies.

Currently we are living in what reminds me of winter blizzards so severe we called them “white outs”; a person approaching within a few feet of you appeared to materialize out of nowhere, floating in a field of white with no borders in any direction. In such a situation how are we to orient ourselves? Wishing to follow Leary and drop out, where do we drop out from, and to where? Or choosing Alpert’s advice to be here now, where’s here? During our Mountain SERE course the instructors took us to an open meadow. They strongly cautioned us that should we parachute into a heavy snowstorm we should not try to walk out. To demonstrate, they blindfolded six volunteers and told them to walk across the meadow. In only a few yards each of them broke into a circle, tramping paths on which the instructors said they would likely die.

The flurries swirling about us have names: rising prices, inflation, value reduction of investments, shortages of essentials, daily mass shootings, new and emerging virus variants, continuing exposure of corrupt politicians, warfare in Europe, growing military threats in the East, widening wildfires, rapidly worsening weather threats, wildlife extinctions, entire regions in drought, human migration swamping borders around the world, and a few other pesky issues.

Apparently many Americans are continuing the time honored practice of disengagement. During the Presidential election of 2016 several people with whom I spoke said they could not vote for Clinton. Asked why, they could only say “I don’t like her, and Trump can’t possibly win anyway.” Several voted on other candidates but left the Presidential vote blank. We got.

A recent poll, cited above, suggests the degree to which Americans are involving themselves in the political framework upon which so many of the snowflakes mentioned above find something to which to cling. But before the armchair social scientists moan in rhetorical distress over sampling, question construction, and interviewer credentials I will offer that other indicators lend support to the conclusion that the voter base is disengaged or at least distracted. One chronic and undeniable indicator is the fact that, among world democracies the United States consistently has among the lowest turn-out of eligible voters. And taking advantage of that is one particular political party which is pouring fantastic sums of money and effort into every State’s elections at every level.

The outcome of this effort would be far larger than simply placing an incompetent rabble-rouser and his grifter entourage in the White House. Forming a majority consortium of dominated States this party could legally call for a Constitutional Convention to vacate the United States Constitution and replace it with one of their own making. As of this writing, 108 Republican candidates who adhere to Trump’s lies about election fraud have won primary elections for State and Federal positions.

The take-away from the survey noted above seems to be that, while the hearings are providing further detail, voters have made up their minds and are watching – or not – only to confirm their conclusions.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School, is the author of The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy and Going Big. He writes for the Prospect, HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books. In Going Big, he makes the case that the stakes are now much larger now. Referring to the choice between a Roosevelt like New Deal versus the return of the open Fascism of 1920’s and 1930’s America, he states: “Joe Biden’s presidency will be either a historic pivot back to New Deal economics and forward to energized democracy, or heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism.” Pointedly, the last chapter of the book is titled “America’s Last Chance.”

Wittgenstein said, “How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes.” Apparently so.Which mantra appeals to you, Turn on, tune in, drop out or Be Here Now? Mental health demands a balance. But survival of the United States as a Democratic society may need for us to, at least temporarily, tip the scales.

Conspiracy

Conspiracy

by Marco M. Pardi

Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get You –“ Clare Birchall.

He suffers more than is necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” Seneca the Younger.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

When, as a child, I first learned the word conspiracy I was thrilled. I wanted one. Of course, the prefix con (here meaning With) would mean having to confide in others, which I did not want to do. So that meant keeping silent. But what better way to have a conspiracy?

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that many people believe conspiracies are all around them. My reaction has typically been, These people should get out more. See the world instead of just believing things about the world. I’ve even considered writing a parody: Gullible’s Travels.

In recent years the term Conspiracy Theory has taken hold like a canker sore on the lip. Bothersome, and just won’t go away. Seems to announce your inner state before you begin to speak yet saves you from phony displays of kissy-face. Readers know I bridle at the pedestrian use of the term theory. The scientificprogression is: Association; Hypothesis; Theory; Law. I see none of that in current “conspiracy theories”. Madison Avenue’s “50,000 people can’t be wrong” does not make a belief a theory. And, 50,000 people can be wrong, and along with many more can suffer from a form of intellectual pareidolia, seeing patterns in amorphous images or social events, seeing dots before the eyes……and connecting them.

But then, there are some patterns that insist on appearing, some patterns that can neither be proven nor denied . For example, woven through the historical tapestry of the formation of Israel, hidden to the casual eye, is a line of thought tying together precedent, high minded rhetoric, festering problems, promising discoveries, and hidden motives. The rhetoric emanated from a letter written by then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, an influential leader in the Anglo-Jewish Community, in 1917. Secretary Balfour expressed support for the establishment of a “Jewish Homeland” for the Jews spread throughout Europe and the United Kingdom. The letter was made public and became known as the Balfour Declaration. Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Germany, each with enclaves sometimes known as Jewish “ghettos”, ratified the sentiment therein. However, the conspiracy thread suggests hidden motives on the part of those hoping to increase their gains from promising discoveries.

But first, was there precedent for such a transfer of people? Indeed. As early as 1815 a wealthy bi-racial Quaker named Paul Cuffe began bringing African-American Bostonians to a colony in Sierra Leone. In time, especially after the Emancipation Proclamation, the “Back to Africa” movement, founded by Marcus Garvey, and the American Colonization Society spurred thousands of African-Americans to move to Sierra Leone and to Liberia, where they established Freetown. A central theme was the idea that African-Americans could never have true civil rights and equality in the United States and therefore needed to move to Africa. Seemed reasonable. Of course, by the latter half of the 19th century another theme lurked in the background: The belief that Lincoln did not free the slaves out of the goodness of his heart but rather because a group of his advisers convinced him that doing so would achieve at least a couple of purposes: Crippling the growing strength of the South which had developed strong trade with Britain and Europe; and forcing the movement of a low cost labor force to the North to bolster the North’s strength in the developing Industrial Revolution. Southern plantation owners would be unable to retain the labor force once it transitioned from slave to wage earner. The former slaves would have to move North to accept jobs little better and often more dangerous than what they had before.

So yes, looking at the Back to Africa movement there was precedent for encouraging the widespread Jewish peoples back to a homeland, even if most of them had never been out of the countries in which they were currently residing and had little understanding of the Hebrew language. Speaking of language, the high minded rhetoric was certainly there as well. After all, such an uprooting and move to an unknown required the very best a motivational speaker could offer. Of course, the long standing problems of anti-Semitism were mentioned, but only as problems which then had a solution.

And what about those promising new discoveries? In 1859 Edwin L. Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania leading to a rapidly growing industry well under way by the 1870’s. The numerous wells provided oil for the United States with plenty to sell abroad, especially in Europe. But companies in Great Britain wanted to be free of such dependence.

In March of 1908, after years of difficult conditions and failure, geologist George Bernard Reynolds discovered oil in Persia (modern-day Iran). A year later, an oil company in the UK, Burmah Oil, created a subsidiary company to develop oil production in Persia, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), which started volume production of oil by 1913. Britain’s Royal Navy was under the leadership of Winston Churchill, who wanted to shift its fuel source from coal to oil. The Navy thus became the company’s major customer and a de facto hidden power behind its success. And, the conclusion of WWI brought with it the end of the Ottoman Empire throughout what is now a conglomeration of artificially created States known as the Middle East.

Enter the conspiracy theory. The theme, which is still current, was that the major oil companies, which were quickly becoming transnationals, conspired together to insert a dependable irritant, the Jewish State of Israel, into a predominantly Muslim oil rich region. Conflict was bound to occur, giving plausible cause for raising oil prices. And, if it did not occur often enough to satisfy greed for profit, it could be easily sparked.

Israel is usually depicted as the victim of terrorism and that is certainly accurate. But the narrative in the West just as often omits the history of Israeli terrorism. Among the most notorious acts of Jewish terrorism in pre-state Israel was the bombing in 1946 of the King David Hotelin Jerusalem, where British authorities then ruling the area had their headquarters. Dozens were killed and over 100 injured in the attack, which was carried out by the Irgun, a paramilitary group that split from the larger Haganah. In 1948, in the weeks leading up to Israel’s establishment and the outbreak of the War of Independence, the Irgun participated in the infamous Deir Yassin massacre, in which over 100 Palestinians were killed in an Arab village near Jerusalem. The Lehi (sometimes known as the Stern Gang), which also participated in the Deir Yassin killings, was responsible for a number of attacks in the 1940s that killed civilians as well as British soldiers.

In the interim between the wars and major conflicts of the past few decades we repeatedly see Israel violating Cease Fire terms by evicting Palestinian families from homes they have owned for centuries, burning their olive groves, bulldozing homes to make new Jewish armed settler enclaves, and imposing blockades against humanitarian aid. The most recent expulsion is being directed against the villagers of Masafer Yatta. Oil profits reach record highs; American politicians deflect attention elsewhere.

While gathering my thoughts on these and related issues I was, as usual, in contact with a former very highly placed adviser to senior officials in the U.S. government. I received permission to include a couple of snippets from those email exchanges so long as I concealed his identity and current location. His comments are in italics, mine in block print.

From my time on Capitol Hill I learned something about Democrats that shocked me more than anything. Republicans never shocked me but the democrats tormented my moral compass. They can be just as ratty—if not rattier— because it’s sneaky. And that’s what makes a rat, a rat. At least, giving credit where it’s due, the republicans feel so strongly in their ridiculous convictions that they are pompous enough to say it, giving us, the masses, the chance to fight it. The Democrats do not. They preach of human rights, but Obama was personally giving the IDF* (one time on his own birthday, August 4th, I think a sum of 8 million if I’m not mistaken) American civilian tax dollars for their “protection” against Palestinians.

All this to say, in politics, it’s never as it seems. And I think our number one issue as a society is that we have allowed our government to pull the wool over our eyes with a false sense of us versus them. It’s not. It’s us versus us. We lose sight of what matters, to jab each other for being republican or democrat, while they are both taking this ship down. And fast. To add insult to injury, a lot of them are actually good friends behind the scenes and they play us for fools in front of the camera.

Warm regards,

I’m so very glad you wrote that. I have suspected it for a long time. I’ve never been a member of any political party; I consider that like fraternities and sororities-childish. Marco 

And you hit the nail on the head with the childishness of it equating with sororities and fraternities. I always say that Capitol Hill around lunchtime is like walking into a university cafeteria. You should have seen the day Netanyahu came to town. AIPAC members had brought their entire families from all over the US. I was genuinely afraid to say I was (national origin redacted), because the conversations around me were so uncivil. And these were Americans! 

As Americans, I felt they were far too privileged to be that angry. It was appalling, the level of violence they did not know, but very vocally thirsted after. Terrifying. Warm regards,

* IDF is Israeli Defense Forces.

It seems the bottom line here is that, as the adviser says, nothing is as it seems. And that goes for official pronouncements as well as for lunatic conspiracy theories like the QAnon craziness such as Democrats are pedophiles. But are all conspiracy theories lunacy? The presidential election of 2016 has clearly been shown to have been strongly influenced by Russian disinformation on a massive scale. Whether members of one particular American political Party took part, and the extent to which they may have taken part is an open question. But the activities subsequent to that Party’s loss in 2020, including the attempted overthrow of the United States government are textbook examples of a well orchestrated, though fortunately unsuccessful conspiracy.

In the coming days we will see the massive and comprehensive evidence gathered by the January 6th Committee, including the transcripts of texts and emails exchanged by officials at the very highest levels of the then presidential administration. And they did not act alone. While the efforts of these officials may be judged as the actions of lunatics, the consequences for the people of the United States could not have been more serious. Having failed at their initial attempt to overthrow the federal government, the conspirators are busy at the State level to assemble a consortium empowered to repeal the Constitution of the United States.

As the trite saying goes, “If it walks like a duck……..”

No non-humans were harmed in the making of this post.

Time Is Unrelenting

Time Is Unrelenting

by Br. Mark Dohle

An ever timely post by Mark Dohle, a Cistercian (Trappist) monk who, contrary to common opinion about monks, does not have a lot of time on his hands —– unless you factor in eternity.

Please feel free to take the time to comment. There will be time to send you a reply. MMP

Time is Unrelenting

You know very well that everything that is of time is short-lived. So stretch out your arms to eternity. Long for eternity. This puts you on a higher plane, your heart forging ahead to this unknown, undreamed-of country. This is the way to get a close-up aim at the goal.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3645-3647).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

++++++++++

Thinking about eternity is not escapism, but can be a big help in trying to see what is really important in our lives.  What is worth the effort?  Aging brings us to a time in our lives when we have to face that question.  Each day as it rapidly passes by, shows us the ultimate futility of hoping in anything that is passing.  Yet we can still cling.  Still working on that.

Greed, asks of us that we use all of our energy to ‘get’, ‘own’, and ‘dominate’ the world around us.  Even if everything slips through our fingers, greed can still spur us onward.  Greed in all of its manifestations is shortsighted and does not think about consequences.  The destruction of the environment for financial gain is probably one of the most obvious.  We are not here to devour, but to seek to grow in love.  It is our nature to be loving beings, but the love of something less than what we are called to is destructive for both body, and soul. 

This life is important, perhaps more important than often realized.  Choices matter, how we treat ourselves and others, is probably much more important than we realize.  Once we can actually understand how swiftly our lives progress, it is then that maybe we learn.  Another thing I am still working on.

Old age is a very interesting time of life.  Like every season of our lives, old age has its challenges.  Letting go is perhaps one of the most difficult.  Each day can bring its lesson in this regard.  I can’t run anymore for instances.  It would be tragic, and funny to see me trying to do that.  I can walk fast, but running? My knees, lower back, and lungs would let me know soon enough how foolish that is.  Balance is not what it used to be.  Nothing works the way it used to.  Yet, I am happy to be aging. 

Why is everything so short-lived?  I find it funny that people get excited about being immortal, yet we can barely deal with the years we have.  In any case, no matter how long we live, in the end, it will speed by.

The eternal aspect of ourselves, our mind, that which is actually only seen and known by God, can wake up when the ‘things’ of our youth are taken from us, one, by one.  A call to patient endurance for sure.  In the time of our ‘old-age’, we can learn to seek a deeper joy, one that is based on a trusting understanding that we are pilgrims on an often difficult journey, yet we are never alone.

Faith in God does not make life easier, but it does fill it with meaning.  We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives.  Our libraries, and bookstores, are filled with the thoughts, and insights, of deep thinkers who try to lead us into living more meaningful lives.  Some of these books are much better than others. 

If our essential nature and our deepest desires are based on finding love, perhaps when Jesus commanded us to ‘Love God with our whole being’ and to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’ makes perfect sense.  Anything less than that will only lead us to deeper frustration.  What is loved can’t be bought, owned, or hoarded, it can only be shared.  God is the biggest sharer.

The problem is that our ideas of God are often so infantile that it only leads to deeper self-absorption.  It takes a lifetime for the Lord to reach most of us, and it seems to be part of our lives, this slow taking away from us what we believe is essential until there is nothing left but for us to surrender.  Now that is something I am really working on.-Br.MD

Gun Control (Again)

Gun Control

by Marco M. Pardi

In response to the recent spate of mass shootings I am re-posting this piece I originally posted in 2018. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Furthermore, I plead with you to forward this to as many people as you can. I am entirely willing to engage in discussion with anyone interested in having an intelligent conversation.

DISCLOSURE:

I have been a gun owner since age 15. As a highly trained professional I carried various firearms for years. Beyond and in addition to my military experience I will not disclose the nature of additional or other employment or circumstances which required weapons carry and use. I currently have, and regularly use a Concealed Carry license.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Some people like to say gun control is using both hands. Cute. But on a serious note, I am a strong advocate of gun control, as I will spell out below. I am also serious about getting guns out of the wrong hands. When I read or see television coverage of, say, two drug dealers shooting each other to death in a deal gone bad my reaction is: Two down, more to go. When I read of an armed robber shot dead by an armed citizen in a convenience store, or a home invader shot dead by the home owner it’s, Hooray for our side. And when a trophy hunter gets stomped by an elephant or munched by a lion or bear, it’s three cheers for the home team. You get the idea.

But I am also appalled by the very obvious poor training “sworn professionals” receive. The media are filled with examples of police officers using their firearms inappropriately, usually with fatal consequences. Less obvious are the risks one runs in going to a neighborhood shooting range. I’ve seen too many examples of inadequate or absent firearms safety and oversight, including among police officers. One can only wonder at the general civilian population and their capacity to safely handle firearms.

Having said all that, the United States have a problem with firearms. One sector of the population holds up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as if the hand of God wrote it. Never mind that the Republican owned Supreme Court chose to overlook the part about “a well regulated militia”. Another sector, quite likely the majority, wants much more control over guns. In fact, recent polling by CNN indicates 90% of the public want common sense gun control measures put in place, yet Republican senators, paid for by the gun lobby and manufacturers, refuse to take any action regardless of the number of children shot to pieces as just happened.

But control over guns is not the only answer, or even the best answer. There are already literally millions of guns in private hands. Imposing controls on the further distribution of guns, especially certain types such as “military style assault weapons” is a visible and partially effective measure. The production and sale of “assault weapons” should be banned. These are fantasy weapons, for adult children who want to play soldier; none of them are approved for military issue and use and only an idiot would keep one for “home defense” or hunting. But, I have some additional suggestions:

  1. Just as we license drivers, we must license all gun owners. The purchase of any firearm, of any kind, would require a license. This would be dependent upon successful completion of a thorough background check and a firearms safety course, paid for by the prospective gun owner. This license must be renewed every five years, all costs borne by the owner.
  2. So how do we enforce this? Enact federal law that no ammunition, of any kind or caliber, can be sold without the licensed seller verifying that the purchaser has a valid and current license. A firearm without ammunition is just an expensive paper weight.
  3. Extend these laws to private sales. Gunshows are highly valued by people wanting to get around background checks. One can go into a gun show, approach a dealer or a private individual who has rented a booth, and “step outside the show” for an unregistered purchase of a gun seen inside the show. So, specify that violation of the federal law banning the sale of a firearm or ammunition to an unlicensed individual carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
    1. There is a significant home industry in re-loadingammunition. Subject the sale of equipment and supplies, such as bullets, primers, and propellants to the same licensing requirement spelled out above.
    2. There is a growing interest in and ability to fabricate firearms from synthetic materials by using 3-D printers. Declare the manufacture, possession, or sale of these firearms to be illegal under federal law and carrying a mandatory prison sentence.

Many readers will say these measures do not address the problem of so many guns and so much ammunition already out there. That is largely true. But it is completely true that going apartment to apartment and house to house to register or confiscate these materials is out of the question. Would you like to do it? I bet not. Instead, we are faced with the classic Pig in the Python, the pig being the ammunition and the python being the guns. As the existing ammunition is used the pig moves through the python coming out the other end as useless shell casings. When people use all their ammunition and find they cannot acquire more without a thorough background check and license the frequency of use will decline. Eventually, if the laws are enforced, the problem will solve itself. Some people may dislike that word “eventually”. Welcome to the real world.

For now, the “real” world of America is the unreal world generated by Hollywood and fiction books. It is the armed frontiersman, the itinerant armed cowboy on the ever present horse, the homesteaders who are crack shots. Of course, none of these ever seems to run out of ammunition. The 2nd Amendment was written during the times of flintlock muskets. It had a very specific political goal in mind, and it had specific conditions attached. Contrast that with National Rifle Association practices which enroll children as young as six and place little or no limits on the types of available firearms.

Some people will say my suggestions are Draconian and will hurt the responsible gun owners. Let me personally assure you of something: Getting shot hurts a lot worse.

I’ve kept this entry short because I do not want to turn away the reader with arcane discussions about weapons technology or Byzantine legal systems. I also hope that, since it is short but to the point, readers will take the initiative to respond. Please also heed my request and forward this to as many people as you can.

The Great Divide:

The Great Divide: South Africa after Apartheid”

Taking a closer look at the remnants and ramifications of race and segregation in South Africa– and how it compares to the United States, today.

By Tamila Kianfard

Arriving in Cape Town International Airport, after a thirty-seven hour voyage was something I couldn’t have prepared for. Aside from my swollen feet, being over-exhausted, jet-lagged, desperate for a nap, and being in dire need of a hot shower—I was in a foreign place. I stood out where most residents mainly fit into one of the three tick boxes: black, white, or coloured? Yep, as a Southern American—that one caught me completely off guard, and with our history, sent me straight down memory lane and all the way to 5th grade Black History Month—the only time that specific jargon is relevant, but berated.

Then I encountered my first South African in South Africa. Granted it was the lady at the visa checkpoint asking me why I was even in South Africa, and while we didn’t go into song-and-dance about my visiting her home country—I was absolutely floored by her especially unique look, and naturally had to inquire about her ethnic background. Probably not the wisest move in this day and age, but when I say this woman was “uniquely” stunning, I’m not exaggerating. She was so incredibly different from anything I had ever seen. Her eyes were piercing blue with green hues, and her skin was the shade of brown that girls, literally, burn for. Let’s not even begin to try to describe the perfection that was her hair color. For kicks, we’ll attempt to simply call it ‘golden.’ The only way I knew to describe her unique look is that her features were closest to that of someone whom I would recognize, and would probably widely be considered in my hometown in the States, as “mixed” race.

(Sheepishly, I learned the term “mixed” is not only inappropriate, but also highly offensive to describe “coloured” people in South Africa.) It was put so sweetly to kindly educate this one foreigner, “You mix a cake, and colour the world.” I appreciated the profound quip this older, wiser, South African ‘Mama’ was offering me, and I took it.

Ironically, the populous of South Africa mostly fall under “Black,” and what most Americans view as derogatory: Coloured.

It took me some time to be able to adopt this new vocabulary as a rule, but I quickly realized that while the vocabulary may have been difficult to adjust to, the division between the color classes was even more frightening. To understand how and why these color distinctions are so prominent in the social interactions, and overall dynamic, of South African culture—presented the real challenge.

I lived in an area where the divide was so mindboggling, that to be able to grasp an idea of just how much of a gap was present, one had to turn to the dehumanizing fact that the elite’s pets had more proof of existence than the children living in townships. In certain places, like Hout Bay, people who put their dogs in doggy daycare, had “Repawt” cards, and other daily check-ins, while many adults and children in townships didn’t have birth certificates, and many of them are still unaccounted for.

The plot thickened, as I couldn’t help the sad realization that washed over me while I sat there, on my American pedestal—this country was reflecting my own in many ways. In shocking disbelief, I realized the parallels between South Africa and the American South, are way too close for comfort. I wondered how something of the past so prominently haunted and dictated the future. How could the Rainbow nation with such a colorful background, fighting segregation, apartheid, with Madiba—still be so divided? The worst part: The Mother City was a mirroring parallel to the place I dearly call home—Atlanta, Georgia.

What was even more daunting was the fact that, the country I call home is one of the most powerfully lucrative in the world, and yet, evidently not powerful enough to fight racism or poverty. At that moment, I couldn’t help but to think how many thousands of times, over, both, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had tossed in their eternal beds. I am still shaken by the thought, and this revelation.

As less than a handful of Americans in Cape Town at the time, I was, shockingly, one of the few Americans who recognized this disturbing connection. As if I wasn’t traumatized enough, and now to add my own ethno-Southern roots– most of the other Americans were from more liberal areas of the United States, which, I noticed, strangely enough, actually seemed impartial to what was going on. Not to say that they didn’t care, or that liberals, democrats should care more, but they do tend to vocalize it more—so where was that initiation? Why was it absent in a place it was needed most? Why are there as many people starving in the world today, as there are people who claim to care about them?

Have we desensitized even some of the most sensitive in the world? This is not to imply blame, but more to admit confusion on what direction we have gone in the world. What is our direction? Have human lives become so worthless that we can sit back and watch while our fellow humans starve in the cycle in which they were born, chained to the shackles of the situations they can’t get out of because there is no way out provided?

Working and volunteering in the legal systems, human rights commissions, and battered women and children’s shelters in Cape Town, one thing was absolutely apparent to me:

That many people are not failing the system; the system is failing them. That many people are not flawed; the system is flawed.

The 16 year old–going to jail, tainting his future with a past, because he can’t afford the cheese and bread he shoplifted, desperately, to feed himself and his family, and now must pay a legal fine that is triple the amount of money he couldn’t afford to begin with– is not to blame. The woman who stands up to her abusive, alcoholic husband, and gets beaten in front her children, the woman who can’t get a job, to get out of the horrible situation, because she looks “too rough”– is not to blame. The children who are brought up in that environment, picking up only what they know, what they see, and what they are shown, and reflect it—are not to blame. These are those cycles that one must honestly ask oneself, “What would I do in that situation?”

What is an even more grim reality is the fact that the physical divide between people, is more based on race than proximity. In layman’s terms: the proof is in the pudding—a black man from the American South, eerily, understands to some varying degree, the hardships of a black man in South Africa, without ever setting foot in the other’s country. This is not coincidence. It is systemic.

We must do better. We must learn to walk a mile in the other’s shoes, towards each other, in hopes of meeting halfway, to find a balance that would remedy the casual indifference we live in today. Not just for South Africa, not just for the United States, but also for the entire world, and future generations.

Let’s “colour“ the world, properly—staying within the lines—of dignity and respect.

This article is dedicated to all the incredible individuals I had the pleasure of meeting in Kaapstad. You have touched my heart, forever. Dankie, Dankie, Dankie.

Tamila Kianfard is a human rights advocate, focusing on empowering women’s rights everywhere Tamila Kianfard she goes—from Women’s Freedom Forum in Washington DC to St. Anne’s Women’s Shelter in South Africa. She has a BA in International Affairs from Kennesaw State University, with a concentration on diplomacy and development, specifically in the Middle East and Africa.

In her spare time, she’s pretty much a mermaid (yes, really) with a deep love for protecting our oceans and Recycling—she [shamelessly] urges everyone she meets to do the same.

To Be Or Not To Be

To Be Or Not To Be

by Marco M. Pardi

A woman’s right to choose an abortion is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity….And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a full adult human being responsible for her own choices.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg

The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.” Pope John Paul II

Terms:

Abort – To stop in the developmental stages.

Spontaneous abortion – (medical term). Commonly called Miscarriage. Occurs through various circumstances, not necessarily resulting from intentional human agency.

Induced abortion – an act of human agency.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Once again the United States is in the throes of debate over induced abortion. This time appears to be more inclusive and more likely to include societal violence. It is more inclusive as it appears to be a more pronounced conflict of political ideologies conflated with religious views and scientific realizations not known in the debates of fifty years ago. And, once again, the legally binding decision For or Against the validity of the long established Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision is in the hands of a few Supreme Court Justices, now numerically superior on the side of the ultra right wing group that rushed through their confirmation.

Fifty years ago, as a young college Anthropology instructor, I was asked to take part in a public debate on the Roe v. Wade case then being decided. I did so. Of course, I found an irony in the case: I was unfamiliar with the term roe as a human’s name; I had always thought of it as the eggs of a fish especially when still enclosed in the ovarian membrane. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary). Although I saw certain parallels I realized no one else seemed to so I didn’t mention that. Nonetheless, I based my presentation on logic, as would anyone arguing a legal case. I will do so again here, with the proviso that logic properly done does not have a predetermined outcome. I will also say I will not attempt to present a full and comprehensive legal case for either side (You’re welcome).

Debates on topics such as this commonly circle around some entanglement of logic and emotion, often foundering on the latter as the former is less inflammatory and thereby loses strength. Thus, the outcome is often a hardening of pre-existent feelings more than a bridge to cognitive understanding.

Mindful of that, we should remember that the determinant legal issue of reproductive freedom is being debated in court, not just in private salons or other meeting places. Thus, as in any court case, assertions must be based upon and supported by evidence. Appeals to beliefs and feelings will be ruled inadmissible, even inflammatory. Nonetheless, we should at least look at those appeals as they are often introduced with the knowledge that even when ruled out they have found their way into a juror’s mind. We may begin by portraying a court interaction as A for assertion and R for rebuttal.

A: Life is a God given gift and must be protected and preserved.

R: The assertion claims as self-evident that there is a God and that this God gives gifts. According to honest theologians this is a compound conjecture; an If connected to a Maybe, and is inadmissible. There is no evidence for either.

A: Human life begins at: conception; or presence of a heartbeat; or detection of movement (“quickening in the womb”), and stopping the development is the taking of a human life.

R: The markers cited in the premise are arbitrary and apparently based on theological interpretation. The subordinate clause in the assertion is dependent upon the validity of the premise. Medical science stipulates to the potential for development of human life at those markers, not the factual actuality of its presence. The premise presupposes a developmental outcome and is therefore conjecture.

The reader is free to propose other such assertions, however it possibly now seems clear such assertions, based in theology, have no legal footing. It should be noted that at no time are the assertions cited above declared materially wrong; they are disqualified because there is zero supporting evidence and are based on faith. They may in fact be true, but the United States is a secular society, not a theocracy, and faith – belief in an assertion for which there is no evidence, has no standing.

Moving to the legal framework for debate:

A: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a “strict Constitutionalist”, asserted that there is no mention of abortion in the Constitution. The implication is that since abortion is not a federal issue it should be decided by States, and Roe V. Wade was improperly heard and decided.

R: Justice Alito conveniently ignored the fact that, to date, there have been 27 Amendments to the Constitution addressing issues not specified in the original Constitution.

A: The issue before the Supreme Court solely concerns the question of what legal venue is entitled to legislate and adjudicate issues of abortion.

R: False. As will be explained in Discussion, the implications flowing from the patchwork of State courts and legislatures include and affect far more than just abortion.

Discussion:

The efforts to remove the freedom of women to control their own bodies including reproductive functions and outcomes are by no means universally held among the dominant religions in the United States. Nearly twice as many evangelical Protestants (63%) oppose legal abortion compared to mainline Protestants (33%), according to the most recent survey of abortion views by faith performed by Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses and nearly as many Mormons (70%) say abortion should be illegal. In contrast, 83% of American Jews and 55% of American Muslims say abortion should be legal.

American Catholics are largely split, with 56% supportive of legal abortion and 42% opposed, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found.

As of this writing there are 26 of 50 States which have either passed prohibitive “trigger” laws, designed to go into effect should the Supreme Court strike down Roe V. Wade, or are currently developing such laws. In several cases the laws are such that, before a woman even knows she is pregnant she is subject to a heavy monetary fine and lengthy prison sentence if convicted of taking an action which terminated her pregnancy even if resulting from rape or incest. In addition, personnel ranging from her doctor to her driver, should she obtain transportation to a health clinic for purposes of abortion, also face heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment. The same applies to her if she obtains a medically prescribed pill, even by mail, which might terminate her pregnancy. The root of these laws is the pronouncement that the fertilized egg; or the small collection of cells emitting a nerve action (called “heartbeat”); or the fetus long before viability outside the womb is “a person”. In short, Where does life begin? Yet, medical science is far from agreed on any answer to that. Certainly the potential for life, under the right circumstances, is there, but the actuality is debatable. The same (potential) could be said of the gametes carried by either sex. If prevented from uniting under the “right circumstances” they are expelled and die, through menstruation, nocturnal emission, or other means. Are these processes then homicide? Surgeons operating to remove cancerous tumors strive to achieve “clean margins”, meaning removal of neighboring healthy cells. But we have long had the ability to clone individuals from such healthy cells, though ethical considerations have stopped – for now – cloning of humans. Should these surgeons be convicted of murder?

Several States are also considering the banning of certain forms of contraception. Some forms, such as barrier methods, prevent conception. And, yes, some allow conception but prevent implantation of the fertilized egg. What appears overlooked is that some of the latter forms of contraception are prescribed for serious medical conditions unrelated to prevention of pregnancy. Banning those forms would effectively doom females afflicted with those conditions to serious and perhaps fatal consequences.

The Declaration of Independence strongly declares the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But whose life? A fertilized cell? A collection of cells? Or a female capable of child bearing, albeit if she herself is a child? Unwanted pregnancy can and often does produce a cascade effect including but not limited to fear, shame, depression, shunning by family and friends, failure to complete school, loss of or inability to obtain gainful employment (a recently completed study by a consortium of economists found that pregnancy reduces a woman’s income potential by 30% while increasing her costs dramatically), a child or children raised in dramatically sub-optimal familial, social, medical, and educational conditions, and greatly reduced lifelong potential for the child. “Life”? Check. “Liberty”? Liberty was taken from the mother and therefore from the child. “Pursuit of happiness”? You’re kidding, right?

A corollary phenomenon overlooked by so many “Pro Life” people (actually, Pro Birth) is the almost complete overlap they share with those strongly advocating for reduction of “welfare” such as the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program, free school meals, housing assistance, Medicaid and other programs addressing the poverty caused largely by inadequate opportunities for family planning.

I have written elsewhere of what I see as reasoning behind the “big money”, especially as funneled through the titular Republican Party to support the denial of freedom and the subjugation of women. A desperate labor pool will accept low wages, third world working conditions, no retirement funds, and job termination due to outsourcing or automation. A desperate labor pool will gladly volunteer for the “three hots and a cot” life in a military which can be summoned at any moment for wars of profit they will never share in. Not shareholders in the “defense industries”, they will reap only a meager separation pay, or retirement pay, and maybe a chance to get on the waiting list for Veterans Administration health care.

Regular readers of this site know I have often applied a name to this “reasoning”. But go ahead, apply one of your own. And while you are devising that name I would ask you to ask yourself if you want To Be that or do you choose Not To Be that.

Arrogance

Religious and Political Arrogance

By Br. Mark Dohle

All men have an equal share of pride; the only difference is in their ways and means of showing it.” LA ROCHEFOUCAULD 1680 Maxims

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Religious and Political Arrogance and Conceit

It is amazing how many people have the truth! Also how many trying to convince everyone else that they are wrong. Religious people have a tendency to believe that they are of the elect, and those who disagree with them, well, are not, and are dammed. In fact, if you are a Christian and belong to a denomination, or to an independent church, or just pray and worship at home, I can wager that in some Christian’s eyes, you are not of the elect, and are dammed.

Yes, it is wearisome.

It is the same in politics. While I believe that the vast majority of people do not identify with the extreme left or right, there is a large minority that does. They also damn each other along secular lines, which can be worse than being dammed by believers, at least in the United States, and Europe. Being canceled today in the ‘woke’ community is mercilessly allowing for no reconciliation.

I am not absenting myself from this human weakness and at times evil. Living in a society where church and state are one, while that arrangement can be troublesome, can also make it easier to live out one’s faith in peace since it is obvious to everyone who practices their faith what is true and right. The same goes for political beliefs, as long as no outside information or opinion is allowed. Today that is impossible for the most part.


The scriptures can help, but more often than not they can be troublesome since I believe we pick and choose what we are to quote and focus on. Mostly that which agrees with us in our preconceived beliefs.

Even the word ‘God’ can be problematic, loaded, and divisive. I do believe in ‘God’, in the revelation of Jesus Christ, but I have trouble when someone comes across saying that they ‘know’, and have the authority to judge and yes damn to outer darkness just about everyone.

When St. Paul talked about ‘Party Spirit’, it was not something good, and detrimental to the community. So believers and political pundits often get absorbed into this ‘Party Spirit’ which can lead to violence and even death. Perhaps the war in Ukraine can be called an extreme manifestation of that reality.

Paul lists the “fruit” (or offspring) of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. And while many of the behaviors listed in these verses are sexual sins (adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness), most of the behaviors listed are those that come from a sense of moral and religious superiority over others (hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders).” https://redeeminggod.com/flesh-galatians-5-19-

Today, because of our ability to communicate instantly with so many on the internet, allows for contention to spread to thousands, even millions. In the past, while it caused harm, and serious problems, today it is magnified a hundredfold.

There is no way out of this quagmire, and it may lead to the ending of society as we know it, and the destruction of most of us living today. Too pessimistic? I wish it were. It is believed that we are guided by logic and rational thought. I see no proof of that, I see a world caught up in a whirlwind of emotions, and reactions, with just a touch of rational thought and logic to slow down our downward spiral to further chaos. We are however speeding towards a crash landing.

The best aspects of religion and politics can give us some light on this matter, but it is seldom followed, I believe that we are too short-sighted for that.


When we do not love, listen, or respect others, we sin. Whatever is not of love, is sin. Whatever leads to chaos, pain, and destruction is sin. Sin is short-sighted, wants a quick fix, and does not listen to others. I believe that we are all infected by this, I have met no exceptions. Those who know this, perhaps fight against it, and with grace progress is made. Those who do not, cannot face what is inside their souls, and cannot seek healing, redemption, responsibility, and most importantly, mercy and forgiveness. Mercy can only come with confession and self-knowledge. Without that, we are caught in an eternal wheel of pain, violence, and death.

People can’t afford an apartment even when they have jobs. People have jobs but still, live in their cars. Yet, in certain areas, they want to outlaw people from doing that. Yes, we do have a long way to go to live out what we proclaim we believe.

When faith becomes an ideology, it is doomed. Faith is open to the work of God in the world, and the humility to admit we do not have all the answers. Yet we are called to serve, love, and yes, to pray, and speak the truth in gentleness, respect, and love as the Scriptures counsel us to do (Ephesians 4:15). Ideologies are closed systems, and in the end they will die.

Lord, teach us to seek mercy and to give it-Br.MD

Trust

Trust

by Marco M. Pardi

Trust, v. To lay oneself open to deception.” Victor I. Cahn. The Disrespectful Dictionary.

Trust in God but tie your camel”. Arab saying.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

That he was being watched was not surprising. But Tonio had to wonder if the interest was simply routine to detect something or focused to confirm something. If the former, no problem. If the latter, big problem. His assigned interpreter, Kamran, a graduate student at Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku and undoubtedly an officer in the Dövlət Təhlükəsizlik Xidməti, or State Security Service, came alongside him, smiling as always.

Tonio moved so he could quickly examine the two men who had entered with his mark. Over Kamran’s shoulder he noted these were not the usual types, stacks of muscle topped by a solid round bone; they were lean and built as if from braided steel, one staying near the mark while the other circulated to be ready to respond from an unexpected direction. Professionals. He could not determine their ages in years, but their faces indicated they had lived every day of them.

As he circulated among the guests, drinking his tonic water and lime, smiling and speaking through Kamran, he reviewed the possibilities. To his knowledge only three senior executives knew of the existence of the – maybe – five other specialists and two of those executives refused any and all knowledge of the identities and specific actions of the unit. Plausible deniability. The department which created his legend, complete with rudimentary family tree, birth certificate, schooling, and passport knew nothing about him. They simply erected a phantom. That left only the one executive as a source of a possible leak. Yet, he had known that man for years, and had been personally recruited by him. “You’re like a brother to me, Tonio. But if the order comes I’d kill you in a heartbeat.” Never. No, NEVER trust anyone completely.

Trust is such an amorphous concept. It can be applied to the intangible, the ethereal, such as Fate, the future. Or, it can be applied to the very specific, the minuscule stent placed in a coronary artery. A miscalculation in either case may yield a result with no second chances. When you drive onto the highway at night do you trust in Fate, or in your brake pads? Will you see in time that oncoming wrong-way driver with his headlights out? Speaking of which, I, like so many other children at the time, heard the advice to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Bible. Proverbs 3:5-6. God the traffic cop. We can only hope that also applies to the other guy.

We go to bed at night and let ourselves fall asleep, trusting that we will wake up. Remember that comforting little child’s prayer, “….if I should die before I wake…”? Pleasant dreams.

Apparently trust can be applied fully, partially, or conditionally. Ronald Reagan enshrined this when he confronted the leader of the then Soviet Union and repeatedly said “Trust, but verify” An untold number of Americans seem to still think he dreamed that up. I was amused at the time, when it seemed he was throwing an old Russian proverb, “doveryai, no proveryai”, back at a Russian.

Of course, there can be times when you find yourself working for someone you do not trust at all. It’s possible to do this so long as you remember the saying, le plus on leur baise le cul, le plus ils nous chient sur la tete.

It is interesting to inventory the various things, events, and people we place some degree of trust in every day, and night. Recently I read a column in which a woman was gushing about how her enormous boa constrictor liked to stretch out next to her on the bed at night and sleep. She was so thrilled by its love. A herpetologist responded that it more likely was measuring her for a meal.

I get that physics informs us we humans are 99.99999% empty space (I can think of some that exceed even that) and that even the hardest substance known to us is composed of sub-atomic particles/waves that are further apart relative to their size than the stars in the visible universe. But I still trust that when I sit on a chair I won’t fall through.

So we live in a constellation of trusts, stronger with some, lesser with others, like a multitude of rubber bands of varying strength. I read of a race car driver who said he felt safer on the track than on the road; “At least we’re all driving in the same direction.” But how long do we maintain that uniform direction when in a relationship? Did we initially state and agree upon what we thought was our ultimate destination? Did we factor in side trips along the way? Over the years I’ve known several married couples. A few long term couples are still in their first marriage. Do they seem unusual? Then again there are those couples in which one or both cited marital infidelity as causing the break up of their previous marriage. Yeah, that would be a deal breaker for me, too, either way. And I would be up front about it. Still, how much of our autonomy do we surrender on entering a relationship? And what happens if, during a relationship, we discover we truly want more autonomy? Some of us may have had careers which put potential partners at risk, even severe risk. Do we add that as a footnote to the marriage proposal? *Oh, by the way……that ’til death do us part bit……

Some trust relationships have term limits. We call these “political office”. We agree to place a person in a position of power for a period of time on the condition that they basically maintain the direction we found them in when they gained our trust. But as they ascend to higher and more complicated positions of power are they there on the basis of our trust or on the basis of our ignorance?

In the late 1970’s a B movie actor named Ronald Reagan went from Governor of California to President of the United States largely on a trust winning grandfatherly “Heh, heh” and “There you go again”. He spoke glowingly of America as a “shining city on a hill”. Yet, when he got to Capitol Hill his regime canceled the CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), a government function, and replaced it with FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) outsourced to Wall Street. Under his political party protective regulations were rolled back across the board and a doctrine called Citizens United was put in place. This essentially allowed the companies which had benefited enormously from federal retirement money pouring into them largely unfettered ability to repay the favor with enormous contributions to the elections of his political party, ensuring that these companies would continue to benefit long into the future, enriching their stockholders along the way. In short, Reagan’s shining city on a hill was a Potemkin Village built on the architecture of pure and fundamental Fascism. This same political party has devised efforts to do the same with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid: Privatize and deregulate.

Not long after the dissolution of the Soviet Union a rising star named Vladimir Putin came to power. An astute student of the United States during his KGB career he copied the strategy of privatizing and deregulating industries and utilities which had been State owned. (I wonder where he got that idea) He and his friends and supporters thus “purchased” these for pennies on the dollar, and siphoned off earnings calculated presently at one trillion dollars. They sheltered their plunder in foreign registered mega-yachts, mansions, and commercial property in other countries. Today we call these people the Oligarchs. What’s interesting is the sparse discussion of these people, and this strategy, in U.S. media. Is there someone here we shouldn’t be trusting? Or are we too busy “streaming” inane television programs?

Most recently, in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election, this party, fearful that competent voters would avail themselves of Mail-In voting during a deadly pandemic, replaced the Director of the Post Office with a crony who promised to disrupt, delay, and disorganize postal delivery, thereby ensuring that mail-in ballots would arrive too late if they arrived at all. The long term plan, publicly approved by many in that particular political party, was to so erode trust in “the government” that the public would overwhelmingly approve of the privatization and deregulation of the U.S. Postal Service. And the friend of the then President, the crony he put in charge, was first in line to make the purchase. Did it still make sense to use terms such as Russian President and American President when there was no daylight between them?

Having trust in someone or something is certainly comforting. Feeling able to express feelings and concerns openly is a large part of that. Years ago a private four year college asked me to teach some courses in Marriage and the Family. I did so. During the semester we examined marriage from several angles, including the preparatory stage. I discussed the merits of Pre-Nuptial Agreements. These commonly stipulate “who gets what” in the event of a divorce. In each class several students expressed disapproval, their reasoning being that such a concept diluted the romance of the upcoming marriage. So let’s look at this.

If you and your partner to be are strict adherents to a “’til death do us part” group, and you are convinced you both will follow this no matter what may happen, this may not apply. But that pledged was formed when life expectancy was very much lower and opportunities for meeting others and communicating were far fewer. Saying at 20 that you know what your life will be like at 40 is foolish at best. Many people now marry in their twenties and early thirties, with a longer life expectancy and greatly enhanced mobility and social contacts. So, the likelihood of circumstances threatening the continuation of the marriage is greatly increased. Such a commitment, ’til death do us part, thus speaks of what may be the greatest act of trust a person may engage in: trust of the partner, and trust of the self. Divorce statistics indicate that trust is misplaced. Add to that the number of people who remain together “for the sake of the children”, for financial reasons, for social/religious reasons, or just a fear of living alone.

A common perception of a “Pre-Nup” is that it is an instrument of denial, denying the spouse of certain assets and other valuables. In fact, jointly written, it is an instrument of entitlement, committing to contract certain assets and other valuables. Divorce attorneys are on the hourly clock. A hassle over who gets the $1,000 85” flat screen (now depreciated to $300) quickly turns that flat screen into a two or three thousand dollar booby prize. Thus, the Pre-Nup serves as the basis for a final settlement, avoiding possibly many thousands in unnecessary negotiations. Couples may lump items in categories or may itemize them. I know a couple with a 17 page, single spaced Pre-Nup. That’s probably a bit much.

Summer’s coming on, and people will be flocking to the beautiful beaches around the world. Having SCUBA dived off some of these coasts I can tell you of the municipal sanitary sewage pipes running out offshore beneath those picturesque waters. One place put me in mind of Astrud Gilberto’s famous song, but I modified the lyrics: ……the girl from Treponema goes walking, and when she walks you gasp at how thin she is….

Well, all this talk about trust has me wondering if you trust this site. One thing you will not hear me say, or read from me, is: Trust Me.

A Deadly Mix

A Deadly Mix: Religion and Politics and Patriarch Krill and Putin.

By Brother Mark Dohle

Our Guest Post is by Brother Mark Dohle, a man I have known for over twenty years. Soon after completing an enlistment in the U.S. Navy Mark entered the Cistercian monastic order. Although a young man at the time, he had seen much of the world and chose to devote his life to spiritual contemplation. Unlike the mistaken image many have of monks, Brother Mark has been active in considering the findings of science, the realities – hidden and obvious – of politics, and especially the ways we humans live and die.

In this piece Br. Mark is discussing the recent coverage of the relationship of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Moscow to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and his ongoing genocide in Ukraine. Just as importantly, Br. Mark is discussing a problem, the relationship of Church and State, as it is found in many societies including the United States. (MMP)

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. If there is truth to the saying, The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword it is because people like us read, consider, and exchange our thoughts with others. (MMP)

When a government, and the church become one, there is only trouble brewing.  In a church that is either run by the state, or works as an equal partner with the prevailing government, it will draw into its ranks men who want power, they become no different than politicians.  The religious nature of their calling may still be important, but in reality it is not central.

Patriarch Krill is the supposed spiritual leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Yet his real loyalty is to his country, as well as with Putin.  They are partners.  That is why you can see a religious leader encouraging the total destruction of other people.  The real horror is that God is brought into the picture.

Pictures are shown where priest are blessing weapons, tanks, and solders who are attacking a country that was no threat, and committing genocide with the blessing of Patriarch Krill.  

In the Catholic Church our history has many dark epochs, the darkest is when church and state were one.  Today in the Church, because we do not have political clout, and are not being used by the state, a different sort of man will want to become a priest and religious leader.  The kind of power the Krill has is not present in the Catholic Church.  Yes there is still corruption in the church, and it will always be so, yet at this time, no Pope would ever give support to the destruction of other people, or an unjust attack.

Yet, why are so many people surprised, or shocked?  It is a tragic sad situation and will lead to only more bloodshed, but surprised?  The young Russian men are doing the atrocities, will after returning home wake up to what they have done, and will have to live with it.  Many will live lives of deep regret.  Many will shorten their lives through addiction, and suicide.  While the leaders, both the religious, and political, because they did not dirty their hands will be at peace.  Yet this is not something new.  As a species we are very unstable when it comes to living out what we profess we believe.

Every once in a while people will ask me if I think that I am a good person. My response is ‘no’.  They ask me why.  I respond that I am not a good person, because every day I have to struggle to make the just and loving choices.  I fail, and begin again. 

I am not good, nor am I evil, yet I have a tendency to move in the direction of chaos and self-destruction if I do not keep on the path of seeking God and loving others.  It is a lifelong commitment, which does get easier over time, yet still a struggle.

So Putin and Patriarch Krill’s actions, and religious teachings on what they are doing does not surprise me.  It saddens me, and I can see myself doing the very same thing if I was part of the situation and grew up in Russia.  Which saddens me more, but not surprised at what I know I am capable of doing.

We are not a rational species, yet we try to be.  We are emotional, we can tend to react, and if we think things through, the curse of “confirmation bias” plays a big role.  It is almost impossible to break away into a system of doing things that are actually rational, as well as deeply spiritual.  It is call the “Sermon on the Mount”.—Br.MD

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